South Korea has stopped broadcasting anti-Pyongyang propaganda on the border, in a deal with North Korea, allowing the two countries to pull back from the brink of a potential military conflict.
The move was part of a deal announced earlier on Tuesday following marathon talks. The broadcasts included news from South Korea, Korean pop songs as well as other materials deemed “harmful” to the North Korean state.
In a carefully crafted, though vague, piece of diplomacy, Pyongyang expressed “regret” on Tuesday that two South Korean soldiers were maimed in a recent land mine blast Seoul blamed on the North.
While not an acknowledgement of responsibility, let alone the “definite apology” South Korea’s president had demanded, it allows Seoul to claim some measure of victory in holding the North to account.
The two countries also agreed to work towards a resumption next month of reunions for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, National Security Adviser Kim Kwan-jin, the South’s lead negotiator, told reporters.
Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett, reporting from Seoul, said the resumption of the reunions could happen at the end of September, to coincide with the harvest festival in South Korea.
Our correspondent also said that with the deal, “both sides could have something to gain”, including an opening for continued talks in the coming days and weeks, and renewed economic cooperation.
“Now that the immediate crisis has been resolved, attention is switching to the longer-term implications of this deal. There’s talk of trying to set up a regular system of inter-Korean contact, to help build trust.”
The negotiations in the border truce village of Panmunjom had played out against a dangerous military stand-off, which triggered a rare artillery exchange over the border last week.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ordered his frontline troops onto a war-footing on Friday while Seoul warned that it would “retaliate harshly” to any acts of aggression.
The talks had begun early on Saturday evening, shortly after the passing of a North Korean deadline for Seoul to halt its propaganda broadcasts or face military action.
While the two Koreas have difficulty agreeing to talks, once they do, marathon sessions are often the rule. After decades of animosity and bloodshed, finding common ground is a challenge.
The first session of the Panmunjom talks lasted about 10 hours and the second session about 33 hours.
During the talks at Panmunjom, the North Korean negotiators raised the issue of restarting joint tours to the North’s scenic Diamond Mountain resort, said the official from Seoul’s unification ministry.